The purpose of this study was to assess the measurement accuracy of the most commonly used tracking technologies in professional team sports (i.e., semi-automatic multiple-camera video technology (VID), radar-based local positioning system (LPS), and global positioning system (GPS)). The position, speed, acceleration and distance measures of each technology were compared against simultaneously recorded measures of a reference system (VICON motion capture system) and quantified by means of the root mean square error RMSE. Fourteen male soccer players (age: 17.4±0.4 years, height: 178.6±4.2 cm, body mass: 70.2±6.2 kg) playing for the U19 Bundesliga team FC Augsburg participated in the study. The test battery comprised a sport-specific course, shuttle runs, and small sided games on an outdoor soccer field. The validity of fundamental spatiotemporal tracking data differed significantly between all tested technologies. In particular, LPS showed higher validity for measuring an athlete’s position (23±7 cm) than both VID (56±16 cm) and GPS (96±49 cm). Considering errors of instantaneous speed measures, GPS (0.28±0.07 m⋅s-1) and LPS (0.25±0.06 m⋅s-1) achieved significantly lower error values than VID (0.41±0.08 m⋅s-1). Equivalent accuracy differences were found for instant acceleration values (GPS: 0.67±0.21 m⋅s-2, LPS: 0.68±0.14 m⋅s-2, VID: 0.91±0.19 m⋅s-2). During small-sided games, lowest deviations from reference measures have been found in the total distance category, with errors ranging from 2.2% (GPS) to 2.7% (VID) and 4.0% (LPS). All technologies had in common that the magnitude of the error increased as the speed of the tracking object increased. Especially in performance indicators that might have a high impact on practical decisions, such as distance covered with high speed, we found >40% deviations from the reference system for each of the technologies. Overall, our results revealed significant between-system differences in the validity of tracking data, implying that any comparison of results using different tracking technologies should be done with caution.
New research published in Plos One